Just after Chandrika Kumaratunga came to power there was a spate of strikes. The phenomenon was celebrated at first by the then Government as an indication of increased space for the expression of democratic freedoms. Not too long afterwards the very same regime decried strikes as an abuse of freedom. The line changed to, “The strikers are irresponsible and are demonstrating nothing but the freedom of the wild ass.”
It is happening all over again. We hear the same kind of dismissive statements from the Government. Indeed, they’ve gone a step further, borrowing a page from the previous regime, describing agitation as the voice of a disgruntled few who are being used as pawns by the joint opposition. ?It’s all too familiar. When agitation is not being celebrated as evidence of enhanced freedoms under the current dispensation, it is dismissed either as abuse of privileges by the irresponsible or the antics of the joint opposition. ?Naturally, any Opposition worth the title will not miss any opportunity to piggy-back on any course of action against any government. That’s politics. This Government is a coalition made of the two main political parties in the country. Both parties have played this game and do not have the moral authority to cry foul. This of course doesn’t mean that piggy-backing is all that the Opposition does. Everyone is someone else’s pawn and political organizations are the best positioned to turn any population segment into a pawn, foot soldier or cannon fodder.
In this instance, though, it’s hard to blame everything on the joint opposition. First of all that would amount to acknowledging a strong opposition, an accusation that runs counter to the regular pooh-poohing indulged in by the Government which claims that the joint opposition is weak, confused, in disarray and facing an imminent split. Secondly, it implies that grievances expressed are manufactured. They are not. They are real and they are not being addressed. The Government itself, in what has become a chronic propensity to state, contradicts and become confused, robbing its own claims of logical worth.
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Daily Mirror, March 9, 2017